The Winter Garden Squeeze finished its first week of play as a franchise in the Florida Collegiate Summer League with a 3-2 record and some promising trends to build on.
The Squeeze dropped their first game, an error-riddled 4-2 defeat at home to College Park, but bounced back and won three of their next four games going into Monday’s off-day.
The Squeeze split two games with College Park and took two of three games against DeLand over the weekend.
Through five games, Winter Garden has showcased quality pitching, specifically from its starters, with a 2.25 ERA as a staff and a 1.57 ERA from its five starters. The Squeeze have also batted the ball around the ballpark, scoring 32 to runs to opponents’ 19 to begin the season and batting .316 as a team.
All of this is much to the liking of head coach Ruben Felix.
“That was the goal coming into this league, to make sure that we had enough arms … it’s helped that these guys are pounding the zone,” Felix said. “They’ve had really good approaches [at the plate].”
Where the Squeeze have thrived on the mound and at the plate, fielding hasn’t been quite as clean to start the season, with nine errors leading to eight unearned runs in the first five games.
That should improve, though, as the group of college players from around the state, and country, continue to get to know one another. As the Squeeze continue to navigate a jam-packed schedule of more than 40 games in just two months’ time, gelling as a unit will be one of the key factors to the team’s success, says Felix.
“They’re strangers to each other, too, so they may be trying harder than they need to be,” Felix said. “We just got to tell them ‘hey, this is your new family for the summer and it’s important for you guys to build a bond quick … you guys all have the same thing in common.’
“They all want to be major leaguers someday.”
Winter Garden will be on the road for a trio of games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week before returning home to host Winter Park (4-2) on Sunday at 2 p.m. at West Orange High School.
Who’s Crush-ing it?
In honor of Crush, the mascot for the Winter Garden Squeeze, each week we will highlight a pitcher and a batter who Crush-ed it for the team during the previous week of play.
At the plate, Winter Garden’s Danny Portales (USF) is hitting .524 with eight RBIs to lead the Squeeze. Of his 11 hits, two have been doubles.
On the mound, Steve McClellan (Olympia/UWF) led the way, tossing 5.2 innings of relief pitching against DeLand and College Park, allowing just one run and two hits while striking out six batters.
What’s ahead — Next three home games:
Sunday vs. Winter Park, 2 p.m.
Tuesday vs. Sanford, 7 p.m.
Wednesday vs. Sanford, 7 p.m.
The buzz: Winter Garden will host three consecutive home games this week against two of the league’s most successful franchises (and last season’s champion and runner-up), Winter Park and Sanford.